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The New Year: Changing Habits

When the New Year rolls around, we all make resolutions on what we will change. It may be to lose weight, to spend more time with our kids, to clean up the garage. There is a theory floating around that states that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit, but the truth of the matter is much different.

As we are on day 17 of the New Year, many of your are still gung-ho on your new changes, some of you are waivering, while some have already given up.

Habits form over weeks, and sometimes years. Some habits are rote and we give no thought to their creation. Some habits have an emotional attachment to them. Some habits require prior education before they can be altered.

The truth is a habit is multi-faceted, and the length of time it takes to change it will really depend on your commitment to the change, and taking the appropriate steps to make that change so. The first step is to create a replacement action or behavior that is reasonable. If you've chosen to run and have never done so- replacing sitting on the couch with a 26 mile run is an unreasonable replacement behavior.

Next you must be conscious of the action to stop it and then replace it. It becomes habit to automatically drive yourself home without thought. You've missed the gym, so you forego it for the day. Until you are conscious enough to stop the habit, you cannot replace it with a new one.

Lastly is the emotional connection to the habit. It is the piece of the puzzle that gets forgotten. What is the emotional attachment to sitting on the couch, or running, or getting home asap, or being at the gym. You will be drawn to the comfort habits, and pulled away from that of discomfort. Until something has become habit, it may not be comfortable. Consciousness will assist you in making it more comfortable, and therefore more likely to be repeated.

This very behavioral post is simplistic, but also applies to parenting.  When you want to make changes in that area, most likely you have to get into an uncomfortable zone to lay the law down how you would like.  Letting things go can be more comfortable at the moment, but not when discipline is laid out. It's important to speak up for what you believe and talk with your spouse about the same.  Being on different pages makes parenting even more difficult.

Changing habits are possible with the right mindset, motivation and consciousness.

Lisa Klipfel, MA, MFT

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